Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Draft for Consultation and Comment
Version 22 August 2016

2. Purpose and Scope of the Guidelines

  1. The purpose of the Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in EIA (‘the Guidelines’) is to provide practical guidance for implementing meaningful public participation in the EIA process in the Mekong region.
  1. Application of the Guidelines is intended to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the EIA process, while reducing risks for both the project and all stakeholders involved, and ultimately resulting in improved, sustainable, and more equitable development outcomes. The Guidelines provide a regional “good practice” approach to public participation in EIA while also taking into account the existing national laws and guidelines. The audience for these Guidelines includes project affected people (PAP), project proponents, EIA consultants, government agencies, non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs), and other stakeholders with an interest in the EIA process and implementation of investment projects.
  1. The scope of the Guidelines covers all development projects within the Mekong countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam that are required by existing national EIA laws to be subjected to EIA processes.
  1. For the purposes of these Guidelines, the term Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been used. This term takes into account the broad nature of the modern application of EIA, as most countries adopt a definition of EIA that includes an assessment of all impacts (direct, indirect, and cumulative, as well as social) on both people and the environment. EIA provides a clear reminder of the need for the assessment process to be as complete as possible when considering and assessing all the impacts from a project.
  1. An overall objective of public participation in EIA is to ensure that all environmental and social impacts from a proposed project are reflected in the EIA Report and assessed by the EIA consultant, and are reviewed and considered by the decision maker, and that any impacts are managed within the Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP) for the project. This should also provide options to resolve any disputes or grievances including compensation that may arise during the construction or operation of the project. Finally, public participation can be used to ensure that there is effective compliance and enforcement of the EMMP and that project commitments and promises are fulfilled.
  1. These Guidelines have been created to provide guidance on public participation in addition to current national policies and practices, but do not replace or supersede national EIA processes. The Guidelines build on an analysis of existing laws and regulations, policies, and guidelines in the Mekong region [3] and are intended to contribute to regional harmonization of policies and practices where there are similarities, while also acknowledging differences. Through this, use of the guidelines will contribute to meeting the ASEAN Charter objectives “to ensure the protection of the region’s environment, the sustainability of its natural resources, the preservation of its cultural heritage and the high quality of life of its peoples.” [4]
  1. Public participation is a process that occurs throughout the entire project cycle, from consideration of project feasibility to closure of the project and rehabilitation of the environment. The Guidelines therefore provide detailed guidance on design and implementation of public participation within the EIA process, what information should be made available and when, and how it should be made available to different stakeholders.
  1. Following an overview of the EIA process in general and highlighting some key principles of public participation, the Guidelines offer specific guidance for public participation in EIA in each of the key steps of the EIA process where participation is most relevant and significant. By organizing the Guidelines in this way, they are also intended to serve as a practical manual for EIA practitioners throughout the EIA process.
  1. As the Guidelines are focused on the EIA process in particular, they do not specifically cover other aspects of the project development cycle, such as the broader policy or strategic level, or during pre-feasibility studies before the EIA process begins. However, many of the principles and practices discussed in these Guidelines could be applied to other decision-making processes outside of the formal EIA process as well. Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between the project cycle and environmental assessment, and how the steps in the EIA process relate to the overall project lifecycle.
Figure 1: The project cycle (adapted from UNEP)

[3] Mekong EIA Briefing: Environmental Impact Assessment Comparative Analysis In Lower Mekong Countries

[4] ASEAN Charter Article 1(9)